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March Madness: 4 Unusual Tips For Picking A Bracket Like The Pros

Full Disclosure

I’ll put it right out there: My record in any NCAA March Madness pool is not great. I have won the jackpot only once, in 1989, when I picked Michigan to win the whole thing and the Wolverines came through.

I also graduated from the University of Michigan if that gives you any insight into the wisdom behind my pick. (Let’s pause a moment to toast Glen Rice who set a tournament scoring record that year and was a dominant scorer in all six games. Man, he was an unreal shooter.)

And this brings me to the purpose of today’s discussion, which is to give you the kind of cautionary guidance that comes with my abysmal record: I’ll tell you what to do, and I find it amazing that some of you will actually do it.

march madness

4 March Madness Tips

  1. The first rule of the pool is to pick your alma mater if said university has any chance of making the Final Four. Why would you not pick your alma mater? Are you really going to sit there and pull for them to lose? And what if they win it all and you DON’T WIN THE POOL. What a loser! Just cover your bases here and enjoy the show.
  2. When the bracket is released, immediately fill one out, using your first impulse and spending no more than 10 seconds examining any single matchup. How much time you want to spend studying each potential tournament team in advance is not limited. I recommend none. Once completed, set this bracket aside and get another blank bracket.
  3. The second bracket is the one you will obsess over, so have at it. What ye shall learn is sure, there’s going to be upsets, and you’ll be the one most upset if you think you can call them. There’s 32 second-round games after the two play-in games. Let’s say there are eight upsets, which is a high number. There are so many ways to miss all eight and yet, if you pick all the favorites, that also won’t be correct. There are many ways to fail. Choose yours.
  4. Find a print copy of USA TODAY Sports in the week after the bracket is announced. Now admittedly it is no easy feat to track down a printed national newspaper in a pandemic – and I used to work there – and it says something that it’s actually much easier to find a Tesla charging station. But I grew up always grabbing the special section they produce every year with the capsule breakdown on every team that makes the tournament. I never missed it. Still a good read. It was only years later that I knew those people as coworkers and realized that almost all of them also lose every year in the office pool.

My Daughter Beat My March Madness Bracket

When my daughter was a child, she once finished ahead of me in the office pool at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans because she picked teams based on how she liked the color of their uniforms or the team mascot. Blue Devils and Tar Heels and Gators sounded pretty cool. My bracket looked like road kill.

So this year I’m keeping it simple. I’ll give you my Final Four and I don’t even need to wait for the bracket to be released.

I’m going with Michigan, Houston, Baylor and Gonzaga.

The Wolverines to win it all. Party like it’s 1989.

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About The Author
David Meeks
David Meeks
David Meeks has never hesitated to speak truth to power. He’s uncovered shady coal mine operators in Alabama, corrupt politicians in Louisiana and supported single fathers in Florida. When New Orleans flooded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Meeks, then Sports Editor of The Times-Picayune, refused an evacuation order. He commandeered a newspaper truck, assembled a team of journalists and won two Pulitzer Prizes. He has worked for the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and was the Managing Editor of USA Today Sports. He is Alabama-born and Michigan-raised, and today lives with his family in Washington, D.C.
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